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Costain uses AI to test commercial building efficiency

5 February 2020 | By Neil Gerrard

Costain is helping to develop a new system harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to determine the energy and cost efficiency of commercial buildings.

The system is being developed by researchers including the University of West England (UWE Bristol), using data collected from a small network of sensors that helps experts paint a picture of energy consumption in a number of test sites.

The aim is to set up a service offering energy efficiency advice to businesses.

Called i-REAP, which stands for “IoT-enabled Real-time Energy Analytics Platform”, the two-year £1.5m collaborative research and development project is funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. It is led by engineering firm TerOpta, which is developing Internet of Things (IoT) enabled sensors for i-REAP.

Costain is providing five test sites across the UK in buildings belonging to the firm or its subcontractors.

Researchers from UWE Bristol’s Big Data Lab will initially carry out a feasibility study in the buildings, assessing the heating layout, staff sitting arrangements, office structure, orientation of buildings and building façade, materials, as well as insulation. 

Starting this month, they will then install up to 80 IoT sensors inside and four outside each of the buildings. The sensors deployed inside will measure temperature, humidity and ambient light intensity, and externally temperature, humidity, wind speed and solar radiance.

By collecting data over a period of six months, the researchers hope to gather enough intelligence on the building to then give client advice on how the current building systems are functioning and how they could be improved by retrofitting the premises to make them more energy efficient and cost-effective. For instance, they may recommend making partitions double-glazed, or improving certain heating systems. 

Professor Lukumon Oyedele, principal researcher at UWE Bristol on the project and assistant vice-chancellor and chair professor of enterprise and project management, said: “This project contributes to fast-forwarding the adoption of AI and IoT for energy savings and looks to help the building sector to move from ‘reactive’ to ‘predictive’ approaches in developing guidelines for ideal retrofitting actions and low carbon heating.

“What makes it unique is also that we are able to analyse energy efficiencies in different sections of the building, at various times of the day and ultimately we want to see how commercial buildings can contribute to carbon neutrality.” 

The experts working on the project hope it contribute to fast-forwarding the adoption of AI and IoT for energy savings and help the building sector move from ‘reactive’ to ‘predictive’ approaches, developing guidelines for ideal retrofitting actions and low carbon heating.

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